There is a point at which appropriate casting can be too clever for its own good. The minute that Dominic West turned up as Walt Camby, CEO of a global company that has lost 800 million bucks overnight, I thought ‘hello, this looks suss’ – I mean really, with West’s form? And to play Lee Gates, a TV presenter with perfect teeth and an impregnable ego, who has a road-to-Damascus moment to suddenly feel the suffering of the downtrodden, gorgeous George Clooney is too obvious a choice. Clooney does little more than reprise his role from the more subtle Up In The Air (2009) but, to give him his dues, he does it really well.
Gates gives advice on what to buy and sell on the stock exchange and he is going about his usual schtick when Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) bursts onto the set with a gun and a bomb. He is one of the schmuck investors who have been wiped out by Camby’s financial disaster and he wants some answers from the big end of town. The NYPD then become involved, but it is the show’s director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), who takes control – the hubris of the film and television industry is boundless. The further the story goes, the more far-fetched it gets, but Jodie Foster’s movie is to be lauded for its scathing critique of capitalism’s uncaring greed, albeit with a number of wisecracks concerning double standards from Gates and a terrific gag about erectile cream. The drama unfolds in real time as people in New York and all around the world are watching, glued to the screen – at the end when Foster has the camera pointed at you, the audience, she is rather heavy-handedly blaming the consumer of news rather than the provider for episodes such as this (and the Lindt café).
Gripping and convincing enough to make you care about what happens to Budwell, it suffers from the bogus morality that Hollywood flaunts when attacking an unfair system of which it is such a fat beneficiary.